The automotive industry is fertile soil for the kind of apps that have revolutionized the mobile space over the last year, according to a report released today from iSuppli. The appeal of in-car applications is easy to see. Drivers could use such offerings for navigation purposes and location-aware services, while passengers could pass the time with casual games or other entertainment genres. And as we become increasingly connected, we’re likely to see a host of other gadgets and platforms embrace such models, from TVs to dedicated portable music players and gaming devices.
A handful of companies showcased auto-application initiatives at last month’s Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany: BMW demonstrated a new app store that delivers offerings directly to the vehicle or via a PC; Nokia unveiled a solution that integrates a smartphone with the car’s in-dash computer systems; and Parrot is developing an Android-based device that offers “automotive implementation of all smartphone features.”
But I think the key to success in the era of the app store will be interoperability. Consumers won’t want to establish accounts at multiple app stores and shop at device-specific outlets every time they want to check out the latest offerings, which is why I think Nokia and Parrot have the right idea — and why BMW is moving down the wrong path with its own branded app store. The smartphone won’t necessarily have to serve as the hub of any scenario where consumers use apps across a bunch of different devices, but it should serve as a kind of vehicle for apps, enabling users to access them from multiple platforms in different ways. BMW would be wise to partner with a mobile player — or at least a player like Amazon or Facebook looking to enter the app-store space — as applications move well beyond smartphones.